Interview with Hanna Grzeskiewicz
Hi Hanna. Before we start, could you briefly introduce yourself? Who are you, and where are you politically active?
I’ve been active in various political contexts in Berlin, but I have two main political homes: I am one of the two speakers of Berlin LINKE Internationals, and I’m also part of a Polish queer-feminist collective, CoLiberation.
Earlier this year, you were elected joint speaker of the Berlin LINKE Internationals. Why did you join the group, and how has it changed since you became a member?
I joined the group probably for a reason that’s similar to many people – at some point there came a point in my life where I thought I need to do something. I couldn’t sit back and watch the world burn without trying to change it, at least in a small way, for the better.
Since I joined, the group has definitely grown and been through some significant transformations. The website theleftberlin.com has grown into its own entity, our community has been steadily growing too, and we are – at least I’d like to think so – becoming a good first stop for people (mostly migrants) to come to if they are interested in getting involved politically in the city.
Of course, we want people to stay active with us too, but we are always ready to make connections, to create a platform for groups to talk about their struggles, and to facilitate discussions.
This Friday, you’re organising an event which is advertised as being the “first monthly Küfa for activists”. For those who haven’t come across the concept, what on earth is a Küfa?
A KüFA is basically a free dinner! This is only slightly a joke, a KüFA is a ‘Küche für Alle’, i.e. a kitchen for all. It means everyone is welcome to come and have a meal for free.
What has been the reaction to Friday’s event so far?
So far it’s been very positive! The idea for the KüFA came out of our Summer Camp last year. After some difficult months in lockdown, it was really wonderful to be together for two days, to talk and eat in a relaxed setting, and I wanted to bring that back as a more regular event.
We are all missing a sense of community, and what the Summer Camp does is bring a lot of different people together to exchange and make connections. But if it’s just once a year, it’s sometimes hard to maintain these. So why not try to do something more regularly where people can get together?
The Küfa is free. But there will be a collection for Palästina Spricht. Of all the international groups which are active in Berlin, why is Palästina Spricht so important?
I imagine most people living in Berlin will know how difficult conversations about Palestine are in this country. Palästina Spricht has organised a lot of events in recent weeks, and sometimes people don’t realise that demonstrations and actions cost money to organise. So we thought we would use this chance to support them.
At least 22% of people in Berlin don’t have German passports. Many have political experience and are members of exile organisations, from Unidos Podemos to Brazilian tenants groups. How can the German Left learn from their experience?
I think they can learn a lot! We can all learn from each other, and it’s important to keep in touch and have each other on our radars. When we constantly repeat the same formats, we become stagnant, and it’s important to keep learning and questioning how we do things to make sure we are doing it the best way we can.
What is the specific role of the Berlin LINKE Internationals in international networking?
Since we are affiliated and, through our history, tightly linked with the Left Berlin – the boundaries are sometimes blurred since they came out of initially one group – we tend to be the first port of call for many people looking for leftist news and events in the city.
We also publish (predominantly) in English, and all of us are international in some sense. We see our role as people who inform, facilitate connection, community and discussion – and through the LAG (the group which is directly linked with DIE LINKE), also to facilitate links with the party and its various institutions.
For example, we have been instrumental in connecting groups like Berlin for India and Sudan Uprising with MPs and the rosa luxemburg stiftung so that their issues are raised and discussed inside German politics.
We also try to represent the views and realities of migrants in Berlin within party processes, as we believe that if we are to have policies that support migrants in the city, then migrants need to be part of the discussion.
What comes next? What can we expect from future Küfas?
If the first one goes well, we plan to theme the subsequent ones to allow people to get together when they are interested in a particular topic, and to simultaneously support groups who are active in those particular areas. We haven’t decided what they will be yet, and we are open for suggestions – and for new cooks!
Is the LINKE Internationals Summer Camp still on this year? What will that be like?
The Summer Camp is a great space to get to know different people and groups involved in the Berlin scene. As people are starting to get vaccinated, it looks like this year’s Camp will be taking place on 4th-5th September as planned.
Over the last two years we have fine-tuned our format: we run several parallel workshop sessions that cover local and internationalist struggles, as well as inviting some keynote speakers. We also cook and eat together, there is also some entertainment (a film, a reading, a bonfire) and generally time to chat and think and meet new people.
You can register for Summer Camp here.
The first monthly Küfa for activists will be taking place this Friday, 4th June from 6pm. As long as the weather is good, it will be on Oranienplatz. In bad weather, you can find us at Bilgisaray, Oranienstraße 45
Questions from Phil Butland